GPhC warns employers and reinforces the key role of the Responsible Pharmacist – COVID update 14

Large numbers of PDA members are reporting they are being asked to break the law by their employers under the pre-text of the pandemic. This is unacceptable and must stop.

Mon 30th March 2020 The PDA

Large numbers of PDA members are reporting they are being asked to break the law by their employers under the pre-text of the pandemic.  Situations include being offered a locum placement, but only on the condition that the pharmacist is prepared to sign on remotely to allow the pharmacy to operate in their absence.  Other examples include where unqualified staff would be assembling and supplying prescription medicines in the absence of a pharmacist or where an employer is asking the RP to sign on simultaneously for more than one pharmacy.

The PDA are extremely concerned that some employers are inciting pharmacists to break the law through internal guidance and using the pandemic as an excuse. It is apparent that some pharmacy multiples wish to operate pharmacies without a pharmacist even though a locum would be available, but the pharmacy is unprepared to use them.

Earlier GPhC Statement

In a joint GPhC and PSNI statement two weeks ago, the pharmacy regulators recognised that in the highly challenging circumstances of the pandemic, pharmacists may need to depart from established procedures in order to care for patients and their families. Their statement specifically dealt with the issue of already dispensed and bagged medicines that had been checked by the pharmacist and that were awaiting collection.

The PDA supported this move by the regulators as it enables pharmacists to put patients’ needs ahead of the rules and the regulations at a time of crisis. It is important to note that the GPhC have subsequently confirmed that this measure is only capable of being activated by the Responsible Pharmacist (RP) as it is they who are on the front line and must make this individual professional decision based upon local circumstances, quality of the available staff and the availability of another pharmacist via phone or video link.

This facility has been provided by the regulators for Responsible Pharmacists should it be required by them and strictly for the period of the COVID-19 Crisis only.

Employers abusing RP regulations

However, some employers have introduced what can only be described as a “free-for-all” in their interpretation of the guidance from the regulators. Boundaries have been broken in an alarming way, creating widespread concern amongst front line pharmacists about unsafe or substandard practice and unacceptable risks to patients.  The PDA is aware of employers who have threatened to discipline employees who are unwilling to follow unlawful company diktats and locums who have been blacklisted after raising concerns about chaotic pharmacies and unlawful working practices to the superintendent.

GPhC Warning to Employers

Following investigations, the GPhC has today issued a stern warning to employers 

In issuing their warning, the GPhC have now made clear to employers that;

Even in the current challenging circumstances it is illegal and professionally unacceptable, to normalise operating a pharmacy without a responsible pharmacist (except as provided for in the current Regulations). By definition, therefore, operating a pharmacy in ways that are not compatible with the law cannot under any circumstances form part of a standard operating procedure, apart from for the specific emergency set out in our original statement.”

We thank members for bringing these matters to our attention and we will continue to act upon any reports of illegal or unprofessional employer behaviour.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
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and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

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